This bootstrapped business does $100,000 per day

Happy Sunday! I know it's a holiday weekend, so I appreciate you even opening this email today. It's one of the longer ones I've written, so grab your Olipop and kick your feet up.

Yesterday I tweeted about a portfolio company of mine that I began to advise in 2019, and it blew up. So today's email is going to be dedicated to breaking down the steps in that thread since many wanted more details. If you missed it on Twitter, you can read it here.

Btw...if you were forwarded this newsletter, or you’re not a current subscriber, please take 7.4 seconds to click here and subscribe. Every week, I go deep into something tactical, just like you’ll see below. 

In 2019, I met a founder at a coffee shop, and within that hour, I had a good hunch that this business was going to be something really special in just a matter of time. It was less about what the product was, in fact, I had zero knowledge of the product category at the time, but it was more the founder's own drive, ambition, and hustle that really made me excited to be a part of it.

Before there were real products, they were showing me prototypes that were 3D printed and explaining how everything is going to work, the patents that were going to be filed behind the design, the next line of products (that will launch in 2022), and why they're so bullish on it. I was completely sold. Today it's one of the only companies I would quit everything to join and help build. The founder is an absolute beast.

The founder asked me to not name the company, so we'll name this person as Simon for the purpose of this email. 

Initially, as Simon was getting the business off the ground, he was focused heavily on the product, how the brand would come across (since there was no branding agency or real website design/development team), and how to message. Luckily, Simon was a really great brand marketer, which in my opinion is why the business did so incredibly well when we switched on paid marketing later on.

As soon as the website had launched, I began working with Simon to ensure it had all of the conversion rate best practices that I would want to see in a site I would launch. After that, Simon began generating orders organically — friends and family, earned media, working with creators, etc. Basically just hustling. The product-market fit was immediately apparent. Word of mouth initially became the fastest channel to attract customers, but now that the product "worked", it was time to put some gas on the fire.

I had a weekly Wednesday AM meeting where myself, a media buyer, an intern, and Simon would chat and talk through Facebook ads. Then every couple of weeks, Simon and I would meet to discuss email marketing and website optimizations. Here's everything we discussed and why:


Facebook Ads

We would test everything initially. We knew that our consumers resided between 22 and 34 years old. It was rare that customers outside that range would purchase, so we knew from a content and messaging standpoint that we had to appeal to that demographic as well.

Our content was almost entirely shot as UGC because of that — whether it was actually from customers, or just taken by interns/team members in that style. It allowed us to shoot content quickly, test new concepts without having to fill out a brief, and it was very cheap — no editors, directors, stylists, etc. Customer-submitted content also did really well for us. If a customer sent in a drunk video reviewing the product, we'd get permission, and run that as an ad.

The main things that each ad needed to do were answer:

What is it?

This had to do more with the way the video was edited. Visually, it had to communicate what it is, in a way that was easy to understand in less than 2 seconds. If we didn't do a good job, our video view rate was low. The opposite is true, too. 

One way we tested videos even before we would put them into ads was by lighting them up as Instagram organic posts + stories. If we saw that the post would get saves and/or shares, it was something worth testing. Simon didn't have a ton of money initially to spend on ads as a bootstrapped business, so it was important to be as close to a home run as possible at all times.

What problem does it solve?

Within the first 5 seconds, we needed to address why this product needed to be in your life. Along with the first point, this more showed the product in action. How can you use the product, what can it replace, can there be a before & after to visually demonstrate it, and how will it make life easier.

A great source of inspiration came directly from customer DMs or messages right after they got the product and found their OWN use case for it. It's so common when we're "drinking the kool-aid" that we have a purpose for a product in our mind, but then when it gets to the customers’ hands, they might have something different. We took the 5 most common applications of the product and focused on re-creating those DMs visually. Of course, copy overlays were a good part of this.

Why this is the best solution to solve it?

You hear me say it all the time — there are 19 other brands that sell the exact same product. In Simon's case, there actually weren't, but the product was pricey, so we needed to be crystal clear on why you, a new customer, should trust this brand new company with what we're saying. The easiest way was to be explicit in comparing this product to its competitor, commonly found at a Target or drug store. Having that as a point of reference made it easy to show why this product was significantly better.

As the customer base grew, this last piece became less of an issue from a conversion rate standpoint, but each ad that ran always had these 3 elements regardless.

In addition to everything tested on the visual creative, we equally tested ad copy, headlines, and audiences to target in paid media. We tested customer reviews, quotes from earned media articles, the first quote when a customer realizes how awesome the product is, and when we found something that worked, we pushed it to all our new video tests. This way we gave ourselves the best shot with copy to perform, and we also isolated the results from testing new videos.

One of the things I'll mention here, is the reason these ads were able to do well so quickly, was because Simon was truly a master at building the foundation for the brand itself. It always had its own moments to rely on, there was something there that existed past just efficient ads.


Website Conversion Rate Optimization

In the Twitter thread, I addressed a few things we constantly optimized:

  • Header bar copy
  • Site hero copy
  • Email capture copy/offer/imagery
  • CTA copy
  • AOV
  • Page UX
  • Offers/pricing

I'll dive into each one, and if I missed any, just hit reply and let me know what else you test!

Header bar copy.

The header bar sits at the very top of the site. Usually, brands use it to notify site visitors about a sale, an announcement, or any shipping delays they should be aware of. In Simon's case, we had a hero bundle that did really well, and we wanted to ensure that people who landed on the site organically saw a path to reaching that bundle.

We tested messaging around discounts, pushing features of the bundle (customize, choose colors, etc), adding emojis, using 5th-grade level language, etc. We found the easiest way to create this announcement was by answering the question, "How would you tell your mom what they're clicking to?"

This helped to clear the way it was told but also forced us to do things like write "Click here to redeem" or "Use code SHARMA20" for example. We didn't leave room for error by the user because of it.

Site hero copy.

This is the copy that is in the hero banner on different pages. The hero copy is the first impression to someone new. If someone lands at the homepage, you want a line of copy that immediately tells them what you're there to do, similar to the "What is it" piece of the Facebook ad creative. With good hero copy, if they bounce from the site, they should at least have context on WTF you sell/do/create.

On this Hydrant landing page, you can see the hero copy "Meet the fastest way to rehydrate" which was tested 17x before we found one that really stuck.

It's easy to test this with 100% of traffic and just watch your conversion rate/click-through rate, or you can use a tool like Google Optimize to A/B test. I would personally recommend running tests like this on landing pages first and then moving it over as you find success.

Email capture copy/offer/imagery.

The average email capture rate is 1.95% according to Sumo. They see the top 10% of marketers are around 4.77%. I've seen most eCommerce friends hover around 3-5%, but we wanted to test into better than average.

There were a few things we tested:

  • The timing of when the capture pops up
  • The copy of the offer we pushed (% off vs $ off)
  • The imagery within the pop-up
  • The CTA button copy

Timing-wise, we found 8 seconds to be the best timing. For evergreen offers, $ off worked best, but for higher discount periods or promotions (>20%) the % off worked better. Imagery that worked best showed the product in action and the problem it solved. The CTA button copy we found was "Get the code" or "Get $X off" — very actionable copy. This got us to an average of about 8% opt-in.

CTA copy.

This was throughout the full site. Testing CTAs like:

  • Shop now
  • Choose colors
  • Build my bundle
  • Customize now
  • Join the movement
  • Shop the sale
  • Learn more

Honestly, this was a bit harder to decipher what the winners were, but we learned that being simple worked. "Shop Now" and "Choose colors" were the highest clicked. "Learn more" and "Join the movement" sounded good in theory, but didn't help someone get to the place they were trying to go. Half the job of a good site is to ensure someone can get in and out quickly if that's what they're looking to do — good CTAs help with that.

AOV.

Average order value is a big deal in direct-to-consumer, especially when you're spending money on customer acquisition. The larger your AOV, the higher UPT (units per transaction), the more efficient you can be with shipping, and the more margin you have to play with.

Between the free shipping threshold, bundles, and the site UX (really pointing people to bundles), we were able to get an AOV that was 7x the cost of a single unit. Granted, there is a baked-in discount, but as a result, it gives us a lot more room to play and scale. Oh, also, profit. As a bootstrapped biz, this was an important one.

If you want an incredible example of gamifying the AOV increase, check out the slide-out cart on Caraway. The only thing missing here would be the ability to enter a coupon code like on Native's slide-out cart, but Caraway's discounts are always baked in, so it doesn't matter for them.

Page UX.

This is less about the copy and messaging, but more about thinking through the best way to educate someone on what the product is and why it's great. If you think of the PDP or homepage in modules or sections, it's very similar to thinking through learning a new concept out of a textbook in school. You have a chapter, with lessons inside. Each lesson builds on the previous or a later lesson might reference something from earlier in the chapter — think of your pages in the same way.

You want to make sure that you give the Kim K. red carpet experience — answer everything as they scroll the page, there should be no questions unanswered or lingering to where someone has to leave the website and go explore the internet for answers. You're leaving room on the table to lose revenue when you can fix that.

The page should also be optimized with enough CTAs but not cluttered. The copy should be easy to read. There should be breathing room on the site, but not enough to where you're wasting room, especially above the fold.

Some great websites for UX inspiration are: Vrai Jewelry, Caraway, Glossier, JuneShine, and Haus.

That was a lot... hopefully it's actionable for you. On to some fun stuff!


Software/App of the Week:

MainStreet — The Threepeat app of the week that saves you money.

Haus used MainStreet and saved about $100,000 in tax credits, all with 2 things: 1. connecting your payroll system to MainStreet; and 2. spending about 30 min on a Zoom call with a MainStreet team member.

You'd normally think that your accountant can find these federal tax credits, but it usually only gets claimed by large Fortune 500 companies who have specialized "Government teams" that know where to look and obtain these. 97% of startup tax credits go untouched every year.

Luckily, MainStreet has done what AngelList did for investing, but for getting you these tax credits. Spritz Society did it and found they were eligible for 5-figures in credits, and they just launched a few months ago!

If you haven't already started the process, which is completely free, I recommend you at least try to see what you can get. MainStreet takes 20% as a commission, but 80% of $100k is better than nothing at all, right?

Find the credits you're owed with MainStreet today!


Brand of the Week:

Vuori — The OG DTC activewear brand.

5 years ago, a friend got me 2 pairs of Vuori pants for Christmas. His agency ran a lot of their early paid marketing, and I just thought, "These are comfy!". 5 years later, the same pants are still worn, as if they were just bought yesterday.

During Black Friday, Vuori ran no Black Friday sale, and still had an incredible day of sales. Why? They've built an amazing brand and community around their high-quality products. They're an inspiration for many who want to build something with longevity.

Try their workout shorts, they're one of my favorites!


That's all for this week!

Hopefully, you had an awesome Black Friday, Thanksgiving, and weekend (yes, in that order). Tomorrow the craziness starts again for all merchants, agencies, vendors, software companies, etc. We'll get through it! Get those 9 hours of sleep tonight, and have an amazing upcoming week!

 

 

 

 

 

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